The Wits and Beaux of Society - Volume 2
173 Pages
English

The Wits and Beaux of Society - Volume 2

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Project Gutenberg's The Wits and Beaux of Society, by Grace & Philip Wharton This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: The Wits and Beaux of Society Volume 2 Author: Grace & Philip Wharton Release Date: January 22, 2004 [EBook #10797] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE WITS AND BEAUX OF SOCIETY *** Produced by Juliet Sutherland, Antje Benter, Sandra Brown and the Online Distributed Proofreading Team. THE WITS AND BEAUX OF SOCIETY BY GRACE AND PHILIP WHARTON EDITED BY JUSTIN HUNTLY MCCARTHY, M. P. And the original illustrations by H. K. BROWNE AND JAMES GODWIN TWO VOLS.—VOL. II. 1890 List of Illustrations "Who's Your Fat Friend?" Strawberry Hill from the Thames. Selwyn Acknowledges the "Sovereignty of The People." The Famous Literary Club. "A Treasure for a Lady"—Sheridan and the Lawyer. Theodore Hook's Engineering Frolic. Sydney Smith's Witty Answer to the Old Parish Clerk. CONTENTS VOL. II. HORACE WALPOLE. The Commoners of England.—Horace's Regret for the Death of his Mother.— Little Horace in Arlington Street.—Introduced to George I.— Characteristic Anecdote of George I.—Walpole's Education. —Schoolboy Days.—Boyish Friendships.—Companionship of Gray.—A Dreary Doom.— Walpole's Description of Youthful Delights.—Anecdote of Pope and Frederic of Wales.—The Pomfrets.—Sir Thomas Robinson's Ball.—An Admirable Scene. —Political Squibs.—Sir Robert's Retirement from Office.—The Splendid Mansion of Houghton.—Sir Robert's Love of Gardening. —What we owe to the 'Grandes Tours.'—George Vertue.—Men of One Idea.—The Noble Picture-gallery at Houghton.—The 'Market Pieces.'— Sir Robert's Death.—The Granville Faction.—A very good Quarrel.— Twickenham.—Strawberry Hill.—The Recluse of Strawberry.—Portraits of the Digby Family.—Sacrilege.—Mrs. Darner's Models.—The Long Gallery at Strawberry.—The Chapel.—'A Dirty Little Thing.'—The Society around Strawberry Hill.—Anne Seymour Conway.—A Man who never Doubted.—Lady Sophia Fermer's Marriage.—Horace in Favour.—Anecdote of Sir William Stanhope.—A Paper House.—Walpole's Habits.—Why did he not Marry?— 'Dowagers as Plenty as Flounders.'—Catherine Hyde, Duchess of Queensberry.—Anecdote of Lady Granville. —Kitty Clive.—Death of Horatio Walpole.—George, third Earl of Orford.—A Visit to Houghton.—Family Misfortunes.—Poor Chatterton.—Walpole's Concern with Chatterton.— Walpole in Paris.—Anecdote of Madame Geoffrin.—'Who's that Mr. Walpole?' —The Miss Berrys.—Horace's two 'Straw Berries.'—Tapping a New Reign.—The Sign of the Gothic Castle.—Growing Old with Dignity.— Succession to an Earldom.—Walpole's Last Hours.—Let us not be Ungrateful. GEORGE SELWYN. A Love of Horrors.—Anecdotes of Selwyn's Mother.—Selwyn's College Days.—Orator Henley.—Selwyn's Blasphemous Freak. —The Profession of a Wit.—The Thirst for Hazard.—Reynolds's Conversation-Piece.—Selwyn's Eccentricities and Witticisms.—A most Important Communication.—An Amateur Headsman.—The Eloquence of Indifference.—Catching a Housebreaker.—The Family of the Selwyns.—The Man of the People.— Selwyn's Parliamentary Career.—True Wit.—Some of Selwyn's Witty Sayings.—The Sovereignty of the People.—On two kinds of Wit. —Selwyn's Home for Children.—Mie-Mie, the Little Italian. —Selwyn's Little Companion taken from him.—His Later Days and Death. RICHARD BRINSLEY SHERIDAN. Sheridan a Dunce.—Boyish Dreams of Literary Fame.—Sheridan in Love.—A Nest of Nightingales.—The 'Maid of Bath.'—Captivated by Genius.— Sheridan's Elopement with 'Cecilia.'—His Duel with Captain Matthews.— Standards of Ridicule.—Painful Family Estrangements.—Enters Drury Lane.—Success of the Famous 'School for Scandal.'—Opinions of Sheridan and his Influence. —The Literary Club.—Anecdote of Garrick's Admittance.—Origin of the 'Rejected Addresses.'—New Flights.—Political Ambition.—The Gaming Mania.—Almacks'.—Brookes'.—Black-balled.—Two Versions of the Election Trick.—St. Stephen's Won.—Vocal Difficulties.— Leads a Double Life.—Pitt's Vulgar Attack. —Sheridan's Happy Retort— Grattan's Quip.—Sheridan's Sallies. —The Trial of Warren Hastings.— Wonderful Effect of Sheridan's Eloquence.—The Supreme Effort.—The Star Culminates.—Native Taste for Swindling.—A Shrewd but Graceless Oxonian.—Duns Outwitted.—The Lawyer Jockeyed.—Adventures with Bailiffs. —Sheridan's Powers of Persuasion.—House of Commons Greek.— Curious Mimicry.—The Royal Boon Company.—Street Frolics at Night.— An Old Tale.—'All's well that ends well.'—The Fray in St. Giles'.— Unopened Letters.—An Odd Incident.—Reckless Extravagance,—Sporting Ambition.—Like Father like Son.—A Severe and Witty Rebuke.— Intemperance.—Convivial Excesses of a Past Day.—Worth wins at last.— Bitter Pangs.—The Scythe of Death.—Sheridan's Second Wife.—Debts of Honour.—Drury Lane Burnt.—The Owner's Serenity.—Misfortunes never come Singly. —The Whitbread Quarrel.—Ruined.—Undone and almost Forsaken.— The Dead Man Arrested.—The Stories fixed on Sheridan.—Extempore Wit and Inveterate Talkers. BEAU BRUMMELL. Two popular Sciences.—'Buck Brummell' at Eton.—Investing his Capital.— Young Cornet Brummell.—The Beau's Studio.—The Toilet.—'Creasing Down.'—Devotion to Dress.—A Great Gentleman.—Anecdotes of Brummell.— 'Don't forget, Brum: Goose at Four'—Offers of Intimacy resented.— Never in love.—Brummell out Hunting.—Anecdote of Sheridan and Brummell.—The Beau's Poetical Efforts.—The Value of a Crooked Sixpence.—The Breach with the Prince of Wales.—'Who's your Fat Friend?'—The Climax is reached.—The Black-mail of Calais.—George the Greater and George the Less.—An Extraordinary Step.—Down the Hill of Life. —A Miserable Old Age.—In the Hospice Du Bon Sauveur.—O Young Men of this Age, be warned! THEODORE EDWARD HOOK. The Greatest of Modern Wits.—What Coleridge said of Hook. —Hook's Family.—Redeeming Points.—Versatility.—Varieties of Hoaxing.—The Black-wafered Horse.—The Berners Street Hoax. —Success of the Scheme.— The Strop of Hunger.—Kitchen Examinations.—The Wrong House.—Angling for an Invitation. —The Hackney-coach Device.—The Plots of Hook and Mathews. —Hook's Talents as an Improvisatore.—The Gift becomes his Bane.—Hook's Novels.—College Fun.—Baiting a Proctor.—The Punning Faculty.—Official Life Opens.—Troublesome Pleasantry. —Charge of Embezzlement.—Misfortune.—Doubly Disgraced.—No Effort to remove the Stain.—Attacks on the Queen.—An Incongruous Mixture.—Specimen of the Ramsbottom Letters. —Hook's Scurrility.—-Fortune and Popularity.— The End. SYDNEY SMITH. The 'Wise Wit.'—Oddities of the Father.—Verse-making at Winchester.— Curate Life on Salisbury Plain.—Old Edinburgh.—Its Social and Architectural Features.—Making Love Metaphysically. —The Old Scottish Supper.—The Men of Mark passing away.—The Band of Young Spirits.— Brougham's Early Tenacity.—Fitting up Conversations.—'Old School' Ceremonies.—The Speculative Society.—A Brilliant Set.—Sydney's Opinion of his Friends. —Holland House.—Preacher at the 'Foundling.'—Sydney's 'Grammar of Life.'—The Picture Mania.—A Living Comes at Last. —The Wit's Ministry.—The Parsonage House at Foston-le-Clay. —Country Quiet.— The Universal Scratcher.—Country Life and Country Prejudice.—The Genial Magistrate.—Glimpse of Edinburgh Society.—Mrs. Grant of Laggan.— A Pension Difficulty.—Jeffrey and Cockburn.—Craigcrook.—Sydney Smith's Cheerfulness.—His Rheumatic Armour.—No Bishopric.—Becomes Canon of St. Paul's. —Anecdotes of Lord Dudley.—A Sharp Reproof.— Sydney's Classification of Society.—Last Strokes of Humour. GEORGE BUBB DODINGTON, LORD MELCOMBE. A Dinner-giving lordly Poet.—A Misfortune for a Man of Society.— Brandenburgh House.—'The Diversions of the Morning.' —Johnson's Opinion of Foote.—Churchill and 'The Rosciad.' —Personal Ridicule in its Proper Light.—Wild Specimen of the Poet.—Walpole on Dodington's 'Diary.'— The best Commentary on a Man's Life.—Leicester House.—Grace Boyle.— Elegant Modes of passing Time.—A sad Day.—What does Dodington come here for? —The Veteran Wit, Beau, and Politician.—'Defend us from our Executors and Editors.' HORACE WALPOLE. The Commoners of England.—Horace's Regret for the Death of his Mother.— 'Little Horace' in Arlington Street.—Introduced to George I.— Characteristic Anecdote of George I.—Walpole's Education. —Schoolboy Days.—Boyish Friendships.—Companionship of Gray.—A Dreary Doom.— Walpole's Description of Youthful Delights.—Anecdote of Pope and Frederic of Wales.—The Pomfrets.—Sir Thomas Robinson's Ball.—An Admirable Scene. —Political Squibs.—Sir Robert's Retirement from Office.—The Splendid Mansion of Houghton.—Sir Robert's Love of Gardening. —What we owe to the 'Grandes Tours.'—George Vertue.—Men of One Idea.—The Noble Picture-gallery at Houghton.—The 'Market Pieces.'— Sir Robert's Death.—The Granville Faction.—A very good Quarrel.— Twickenham.—Strawberry Hill.—The Recluse of Strawberry.—Portraits of the Digby Family.—Sacrilege.—Mrs. Darner's Models.—The Long Gallery at Strawberry.—The Chapel.—'A Dirty Little Thing.'—The Society around Strawberry Hill.—Anne Seymour Conway.—A Man who never Doubted.—Lady Sophia Fermor's Marriage.—Horace in Favour.—Anecdote of Sir William Stanhope.—A Paper House.—Walpole's Habits.—Why did he not Marry?— 'Dowagers as Plenty as Flounders.'—Catherine Hyde, Duchess of Queensberry.—Anecdote of Lady Granville. —Kitty Clive.—Death of Horatio Walpole.—George, third Earl of Orford.—A Visit to Houghton.—Family Misfortunes.—Poor Chatterton.—Walpole's Concern with Chatterton.— Walpole in Paris.—Anecdote of Madame Geoffrin.—'Who's that Mr. Walpole?' —The Miss Berrys.—Horace's two 'Straw Berries.'—Tapping a New Reign.—The Sign of the Gothic Castle.—Growing Old with Dignity.— Succession to an Earldom.—Walpole's Last Hours.—Let us not be Ungrateful. Had this elegant writer, remarks the compiler of 'Walpoliana,' composed memoirs of his own life, an example authorized by eminent names, ancient and modern, every other pen must have been dropped in despair, so true was it that 'he united the good sense of Fontenelle with the Attic salt and graces of Count Anthony Hamilton.' But 'Horace' was a man of great literary modesty, and always undervalued his own efforts. His life was one of little incident: it is his character, his mind, the society around him, the period in which he shone, that give the charm to his correspondence, and the interest to his biography. Besides, he had the weakness common to several other fine gentlemen who have combined letters and haut ton , of being ashamed of the literary character. The vulgarity of the court, its indifference to all that was not party writing, whether polemical or political, cast a shade over authors in his time. Never was there, beneath all his assumed Whig principles, a more profound aristocrat than Horace Walpole. He was, by birth, one of those well-descended English gentlemen who have often scorned the title of noble, and who have repudiated the notion of merging their own ancient names in modern titles. The commoners of England hold a proud pre-eminence. When some low-born man entreated James I. to make him a gentleman, the well-known answer was, 'Na, na, I canna! I could mak thee a lord, but none but God Almighty can mak a gentleman.' Sir Robert Walpole, afterwards minister to George II., and eventually Lord Orford, belonged to an ancient family in Norfolk; he was a third son, and was originally destined for the Church, but the death of his elder brethren having left him heir to the family estate, in 1698, he succeeded to a property which ought to have yielded him £2,000 a year, but which was crippled with various encumbrances. In order to relieve himself of these, Sir Robert married Catherine Shorter, the granddaughter of Sir John Shorter, who had been illegally and arbitrarily appointed Lord Mayor of London by James II. Horace was her youngest child, and was born in Arlington Street, on the 24th of September, 1717, O.S. Six years afterwards he was inoculated for the smallpox, a precaution which he records as worthy of remark, since the operation had then only recently been introduced by Lady Mary Wortley Montagu from Turkey. He is silent, however, naturally enough, as to one important point—his real parentage. The character of his mother was by no means such as to disprove an assertion which gained general belief: this was, that Horace was the offspring, not of Sir Robert Walpole, but of Carr, Lord Hervey, the eldest son of the Earl of Bristol, and the elder brother of Lord Hervey, whose 'Memoirs of the Court of George II.' are so generally known. Carr, Lord Hervey, was witty, eccentric, and sarcastic: and from him Horace Walpole is said to have inherited his wit, his eccentricity, his love of literature, and his profound contempt for all mankind, excepting only a few members of a cherished and exclusive clique. In the Notes of his life which Horace Walpole left for the use of his executor, Robert Berry, Esq., and of his daughter, Miss Berry, he makes this brief mention of Lady Walpole:—'My mother died in 1737.' He was then twenty years of age. But beneath this seemingly slight recurrence to his mother, a regret which never left him through life was buried. Like Cowper, he mourned, as the profoundest of all sorrows, the loss of that life-long friend. 'My mother, when I learn'd that thou wast dead, Say, wast thou conscious of the tears I shed? Hovered thy spirit o'er thy sorrowing son? Wretch even then, life's journey just begun.' Although Horace in many points bore a strong resemblance to Sir Robert Walpole, he rarely if ever received from that jovial, heartless, able man, any proof of affection. An outcast from his father's heart, the whole force of the boy's love centred in his mother; yet in after-life no one reverenced Sir Robert Walpole so much as his supposed son. To be adverse to the minister was to be adverse to the unloved son who cherished his memory. What 'my father' thought, did, and said, was law; what his foes dared to express was heresy. Horace had the family mania strong upon him; the world was made for Walpoles, whose views were never to be controverted, nor whose faith impugned. Yet Horace must have witnessed, perhaps with out comprehending it, much disunion at home. Lady Walpole. beautiful and accomplished, could not succeed in riveting her husband to his conjugal duties. Gross licentiousness was the order of the day, and Sir Robert was among the most licentious; he left his lovely wife to the perilous attentions of all the young courtiers who fancied that by courting the Premier's wife they could secure Walpole's good offices. Sir Robert, according to Pope, was one of those who— 'Never made a friend in private life, And was, besides, a tyrant to his wife. At all events, if not a tyrant, he was indifferent to those circumstances which reflected upon him, and were injurious to her. He was conscious that he had no right to complain of any infidelity on her part, and he left her to be surrounded by men whom he knew to be profligates of the most dangerous pretensions to wit and elegance. It was possibly not unfrequently that Horace, his mother's pet, gleaned in the drawing-rooms of Arlington Street his first notions of that persiflage which was the fashion of the day. We. can fancy him a precocious, old-fashioned little boy, at his mother's apron-string, whilst Carr, Lord Hervey, was paying his devoirs; we see him gazing with wondering eyes at Pulteney, Earl of Bath, with his blue ribbon across his laced coat; whilst compassionating friends observing the pale-faced boy in that hot-house atmosphere, in which both mind and body were like forced plants, prophesied that 'little Horace' could not possibly live to be a man. He survived, however, two sisters, who died in childhood, and became dearer and dearer to his fond mother. In his old age, Horace delighted in recalling anecdotes of his infancy; in these his mother's partiality largely figured. Brought up among courtiers and ministers, his childish talk was all of kings and princes; and he was a gossip both by inclination and habit. His greatest desire in life was to see the king —George I., and his nurses and attendants augmented his wish by their exalted descriptions of the grandeur which he effected, in after-life, to despise. He entreated his mother to take him to St. James's. When relating the incidents of the scene in which he was first introduced to a court, Horace Walpole speaks of the 'infinite good-nature of his father, who never thwarted any of his children,' and 'suffered him,' he says, 'to be too much indulged.' Some difficulties attended the fruition of the forward boy's wish. The Duchess of Kendal was jealous of Sir Robert Walpole's influence with the king: her aim was to bring Lord Bolingbroke into power. The childish fancy was, nevertheless, gratified: and under his mother's care he was conducted to the apartments of the Duchess of Kendal in St. James's. 'A favour so unusual to be asked by a boy of ten years old,' he afterwards wrote in his 'Reminiscences,' 'was still too slight to be refused to the wife of the first minister and her darling child.' However, as it was not to be a precedent, the interview was to be private, and at night. It was ten o'clock in the evening when Lady Walpole, leading her son, was admitted into the apartments of Melusina de Schulenberg, Countess of Walsingham, who passed under the name of the Duchess of Kendal's niece, but who was, in fact, her daughter, by George I. The polluted rooms in which Lady Walsingham lived were afterwards occupied by the two mistresses of George II.—the Countess of Suffolk, and Madame de Walmoden, Countess of Yarmouth. With Lady Walsingham, Lady Walpole and her little son waited until, notice having been given that the king had come down to supper, he was led into the presence of 'that good sort of man,' as he calls George I. That monarch was pleased to permit the young courtier to kneel down and kiss his hand. A few words were spoken by the august personage, and Horace was led back into the adjoining room. But the vision of that 'good sort of man' was present to him when, in old age, he wrote down his recollections for his beloved Miss Berry. By the side of a tall, lean, ill-favoured old German lady—the Duchess of Kendal—stood a pale, short, elderly man, with a dark tie-wig, in a plain coat and waistcoat: these and his breeches were all of snuff-coloured cloth, and his stockings of the same colour. By the blue riband alone could the young subject of this 'good sort of man' discern that he was in the presence of majesty. Little interest could be elicited in this brief interview, yet Horace thought it his painful duty, being also the son of a prime minister, to shed tears when, with the other scholars of Eton College, he walked in the procession to the proclamation of George II. And no doubt he was one of very few personages in England whose eyes Were moistened for that event. Nevertheless, there was something of bonhommie in the character of George I. that one misses in his successor. His love of punch, and his habit of becoming a little tipsy over his private dinners with Sir Robert Walpole, were English as well as German traits, and were regarded almost as condescensions; and then he had a kind of slow wit, that was turned upon the venial officials whose perquisites were at their disgraceful height in his time. 'A strange country this,' said the monarch, in his most clamorous German: 'one day, after I came to St. James's, I looked out of the window, and saw a park, with walks, laurels, &c.; these they told me were mine. The next day Lord Chetwynd, the ranger of my park, sends me a brace of carp out of my canal; I was told, thereupon, that I must give five guineas to Lord Chetwynd's porter for bringing me my own fish, out of my own canal, in my own park!' In spite of some agreeable qualities, George I. was, however, anything but a 'good sort of man.' It is difficult how to rank the two first Georges; both were detestable as men, and scarcely tolerable as monarchs. The foreign deeds of George I. were stained with the supposed murder of Count Konigsmark: the English career of George II. was one of the coarsest profligacy. Their example was infamous. His father's only sister having become the second wife of Charles Lord Townshend, Horace was educated with his cousins; and the tutor selected was Edward Weston, the son of Stephen, Bishop of Exeter; this preceptor was afterwards engaged in a controversy with Dr. Warburton, concerning the 'Naturalization of the Jews.' By that learned, haughty disputant, he is termed 'a gazetteer by profession—by inclination a Methodist.' Such was the man who guided the dawning intellect of Horace Walpole. Under his care he remained until he went, in 1727, to Eton. But Walpole's was not merely a scholastic education: he was destined for the law—and, on going up to Cambridge, was obliged to attend lectures on civil law. He went from Eton to King's College —where he was, however, more disposed to what are termed accomplishments than to deep reading. At Cambridge he even studied Italian; at home he learned to dance and fence; and took lessons in drawing from Bernard Lens, drawing-master to the Duke of Cumberland and his sisters. It is not to be wondered at that he left Cambridge without taking a degree. But fortune was lying, as it were, in wait for him; and various sinecures had been reserved for the Minister's youngest son: first, he became Inspector of the Imports and Exports in the Customs; but soon resigned that post to be Usher of the Exchequer. 'And as soon,' he writes, 'as I became of age I took possession of two other little patent places in the Exchequer, called Comptroller of the Pipe, and Clerk of the Estreats. They had been held for me by Mr. Fane.' Such was the mode in which the younger sons were then provided for by a minister; nor has the unworthy system died out in our time, although greatly modified. Horace was growing up meantime, not an awkward, but a somewhat insignificant youth, with a short, slender figure: which always retained a boyish appearance when seen from behind. His face was common-place, except when his really expressive eyes sparkled with intelligence, or melted into the sweetest expression of kindness. But his laugh was forced and uncouth: and